Basic Information

Area: 430 sq km; 166 sq mi
Population: 275 330 (July 2001 estimate)
People: About 80% of Barbados's population are of African descent, 4% European descent, and 16% mixed. Barbados's population growth rate has been very low, less than 1% since the 1960s.
Languages: English
Religion(s): Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other (e.g. also small Jewish and Muslim communities) 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, other 12%, none 17%.
Currency: Barbadian Dollar (BBD)
Major political parties: Barbados Labour Party (BLP); Democratic Labour Party (DLP); National Democratic Labour Party (NDP)
Government: Barbados is an independent state within the Commonwealth. It has a bicameral parliament consisting of a House of Assembly, with 28 members directly elected to serve a five-year term, and a Senate, with 21 members appointed by the Governor General (12 on the advice of the prime-minister, 2 on the advice of the opposition, 7 by the Governor General alone). Executive power is vested in the Prime Minister, who is generally the leader of the majority party in the Assembly. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1951. The three political parties are all moderate. The BLP is a party of the centre, but lies to the right of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the political spectrum. The parties have no major ideological differences: electoral contests and political disputes often have personal overtones. The legal system is based on Common law.
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II represented by the Governor-General Sir Clifford Straughn Husbands
Prime Minister/ Premier Rt. Hon Owen S Arthur MP
Foreign Minister The Hon Dame Billie Miller MP
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Barbados' memberships include: The Commonwealth, CARICOM, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP), United Nations (UN), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNESCO, Organisation of American States (OAS), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), IMF, WHO.


Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. Most of the island is relatively flat, with low, gentle hills in the interior, except for the north-east, which rises up to 340 metres. The west coast has white sandy beaches and calm turquoise waters. The east side of the island faces the more turbulent Atlantic. Coral reefs surround most of the island.


The original inhabitants of Barbados were Arawak Indians, who were driven off the island around AD 1200 by invading Carib Indians from Venezuela. The Carib Indians in turn abandoned the island around 1500. Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos in 1536 named the island Los Barbados (Bearded Ones), presumably after the long, hanging aerial roots of the island's fig trees, which resemble beards. The island's first European settlement was established in 1627 by English settlers. In the 1640s the colonists planted their fields with sugarcane and brought slaves to the island to work on the sugar plantations. The sugar industry continued to boom until the 19th century. Even after the abolition of slavery, large estates owned almost all the arable land and most black islanders had to stay working on the plantations, for lack of better opportunities. Barbadians emigrated to other countries in the Caribbean and to work on the Panama Canal. Barbados gained internal self-government in 1961 and became an independent nation on 30 November 1966. Since independence, Barbados has been a stable democracy.


The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won a third term of office in elections held in May 2003, winning 23 of the 30 seats available. The opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) increased its representation in the Assembly from two to seven seats. The BLP polled 56% of the total vote, down from 64% in the (1999) elections. Major political problems facing Barbados today are - promoting economic growth: creating jobs, encouraging agricultural diversification, attracting small industry, and promoting tourism. The Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, who also serves as Minister of Finance, has given a high priority to economic development. The government has pursued a consensus-building strategy which is drawing a wide range of social groups into the decision-making process. The government has implemented a constitutional amendment in order to be able to maintain the death penalty as mandatory sentence to be passed for certain crimes. The amendments introduce time limits for appeals against sentences with bodies or persons outside Barbados, e.g. with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, and at providing that delay in execution is not an inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Prime Minister Arthur Owen has announced the introduction of legislation to enable Barbados to become a Republic within the Commonwealth. The proposal, on which a referendum is to be held, is that the Head of State would be a President with a purely ceremonial role.


After eight years of steady growth in Barbados, the economy contracted by 2.8%. in 2001 and by a further 1.8% in 2002. The downturn was mainly caused by a slump in the key tourist industry, with falling overall numbers in tourist arrivals and low hotel occupancy, partly as a result of 11 September 2001. The government of Barbados launched a series of tourism initiatives to increase airlift capacity and earmarked a substantial amount of money for an advertising campaign aimed at the US and European markets. GDP rose by 1.6% in 2003 and an estimated 2.5% in 2004. The tourism sector, which depends to a high degree on the UK market, performed strongly in 2004 with an 8.8% increase in long stay visitors and a 25% increase in cruise ship passengers. The performance of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors was less encouraging in 2004 with sugar production continuing to decline. Unemployment fell to under 10%. The fiscal deficit in 2004 was 2.6% of GDP.

Barbados was taken off the OECD's list of tax havens in January 2002.

Basic Economic Facts

GDP (2003 est.):US$ 2.6 billion
GDP per head (2003 est.):US $ 7,916
Annual Growth ( Government 2004 est.):2.5%
Inflation: consumer prices (IMF 2004 est) 1.5%
Major Industries:tourism, offshore financial services, sugar, light manufacturing, component assembly for export
Export partners:UK 14.8%, US 11.6%, Trinidad and Tobago 7.6%, Venezuela 6.1%, Jamaica 5.8% (1998)
Import partners:US 30.7%, Trinidad and Tobago 10.2%, Japan 8.3%, UK 7.7%, Canada 2.2% (1998)

International Relations

Barbados' Relations with neighbours

Barbados has generally good relations with its neighbours, especially with the Eastern Caribbean countries. It can be seen as a role model for small developing countries. Barbados is one of the three countries that have ratified the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The CCJ, which has come into force with these three ratifications, but is not yet operational, will be a Court of First Instance for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. It will also replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as highest Court of Appeal of Barbados.

There has recently been tension between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago over a disputed maritime area. Arbitration hearings in the matter were heard in London in October 2005 and a ruling is expected in early 2006.

Barbados' Relations with the International Community

Barbados is an influential player in CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the ACP. This was emphasized in August 2002, when CARICOM Heads of Government gave Prime Minister Owen Arthur the task of setting up a regional stabilisation fund to mitigate the economic effects of external shocks to the region. Barbados is also a centre for regional organisations, being the location of UN House, the new Eastern Caribbean offices of six UN agencies. These include the Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Telecommunications Union, the Children's Fund, the International Drug Control Programme and the Development Fund for Women. Prime Minister Owen Arthur holds the CARICOM Porfolio for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). He has made known his strong commitment to CSME which it is hoped will be in place by the end of 2005.

Barbados' Relationship with the UK

UK-Barbados relations are good. There are about 4,500 British citizens resident in Barbados and about 250,000 British tourists visit annually. Tony Blair met Prime Minister Owen Arthur in July 2001 during a Meeting of Caribbean Heads of Government, held in Jamaica and again in August 2003, 2004 and 2005 during private visits to Barbados. Baroness Amos and the Barbados Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Billie Miller, had a meeting in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2002.

Trade and Investment with the UK

Barbados is a small market in global terms yet remains a key market for UK companies doing business in the region. The following trade figures do not take into account the considerable levels of invisible trade (banking, insurance, consultancy etc) or British goods reaching Barbados via entrepots. Recent trade figures are:

UK Exports 42.3
UK Imports 19.99

In August 2002, the Barbados government lifted a 17-month ban on imports of all UK meat and dairy products. Main UK exports to Barbados are transport equipment, manufactured articles, food and beverages and chemicals. The UK's primary import from Barbados is sugar, accounting for over 50% of the UK's imports from Barbados. The Barbados authorities are keen to attract foreign direct investment into the country, particularly in manufacturing, tourism, information technology and construction. An Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) and a double taxation agreement are in force between the two countries. There has traditionally been a strong programme of trade promotion activity between Barbados and the UK. The Commercial Section of the British High Commission, Bridgetown organised a successful British Trade Week in March 2003.

Money Laundering

Anti-Money Laundering legislation has been passed and a Financial Intelligence Unit established.

Cultural Relations with the UK

Cultural links are strong and varied with many exchanges.

Recent Inward Visits

Prime Minister Owen Arthur called on Baroness Scotland in November 2000 while he was in London for meetings with the OECD and Commonwealth Secretariat. Foreign Minister Billie Miller called on Baroness Scotland in July 2000 and March 2001. Dame Billie Miller was the Caribbean co-Chair of the UK/Caribbean Forum in London in May 2004 and it has been announced that the next Forum, due in 2006, will be held in Barbados.

Recent Outward Visits

Prime Minister Owen Arthur called on Baroness Scotland in November 2000 while he was in London for meetings with the OECD and Commonwealth Secretariat. Foreign Minister Billie Miller called on Baroness Scotland in July 2000 and March 2001. Dame Billie Miller was the Caribbean co-Chair of the UK/Caribbean Forum in London in May 2004 and it has been announced that the next Forum, due in 2006, will be held in Barbados. Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General Mia Mottley visited London in October 2005 and had talks with Lord Triesman.

The Environment

The Barbados Government takes environmental issues seriously and is pressing for the Caribbean Sea to be recognised internationally as a Special Area in the context of sustainable development.


Life expectancy (2001 est.): 73.25 years (men: 70.66 years, women: 75.86 years)
Infant mortality (2001 est.): 12.04 per 1000 life births


Levels of HIV/AIDs in the Caribbean are second only to those of southern Africa. In Barbados. AIDS is now the second biggest killer in the 20 to 45 year age group and most of them are heterosexual cases. In the first six months of 2004 16 new cases of AIDs were recorded, while 11 persons died from the disease. During the same period 107 HIV-positive cases were recorded.

A UK-CARICOM Forum on Reducing Stigma and Discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDs in the Caribbean was held in St Kitts in November 2004. The Forum was attended by stakeholders from throughout the region. Participants included the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot; the Director of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development, Sir George Alleyne; Dr Edwin Carrington, CARICOM Secretary-General and DfID Minister Gareth Thomas MP. The aim of the Forum was to accelerate the process of reducing HIV/AIDs-related stigma and discrimination through persons identified as 'Champions for Change'.